EDITORIAL: Transparency not a priority for county library officials

Call the Tune

By Mike Anthony

The St. Louis County Library is in the information business.

While library officials may do an excellent job in making books, periodicals, electronic media and other information available to their patrons, they do an absolutely horrendous job of providing information about the library’s Board of Trustees and how it makes decisions.

It almost seems that library officials go out of their way to make it difficult to follow what the board is doing — even during public meetings, as only a generic agenda is available beforehand with no documentation of what the board will actually consider.

Quite frankly, this should not be the case since the library board uses BoardDocs, a state-of-the-art online program designed to improve the way organizations create and manage board packets, access information and conduct meetings.

Ironically, the online tool is designed to increase transparency. Two versions of BoardDocs are available — a bells-and-whistles version called BoardDocs Pro, and a less-expensive version called BoardDocs LT.

Of course, money being no object to library officials, the board splurges on BoardDocs Pro. For the library board and the library’s pension board, the total annual cost is $13,700.

But very little information or documentation for meetings is available on the library board’s BoardDocs site — despite the fact that the tool’s purpose is to make such data available both before and after board meetings.

For example, using the library board’s BoardDocs Pro, we were unable to find the annual cost of the service. Instead, the Call’s Gloria Lloyd had to request the information from library Communications Manager Jennifer McBride.

In comparison, the Lindbergh Board of Education uses the less-expensive BoardDocs LT. Yet, Lindbergh’s site contains information and documentation for each agenda item that the public can download before meetings and retrieve at a later date.

Besides providing comprehensive information to the public and press, Lindbergh spends considerably less than the library board for BoardDocs.

For 2014, Lindbergh paid $2,700 for BoardDocs LT. We were able to find that amount with a simple search on Lindbergh’s BoardDocs site.

To spend $13,700 for an online tool but barely use it shows just how little regard library officials have for the public’s hard-earned tax dollars and for the public’s right to know how that money is spent.